Our rapidly rising cities are depleting the supply of sand, which is the world’s second most consumed natural resource. When you first hear about a global sand shortage, you’re probably thinking the same thing I did: “I’ve seen vast deserts. Is it true that the world is running out of sand?”
How much is the statement-“Is our planet running out of sand?” true?
It is not an exaggeration to suggest that sand is the bedrock of our cities. It’s an essential component of the concrete we use to construct highways and houses. It’s used in the manufacture of glass. And the chips that power our phones and computers contain it. Every year, we use 50 billion tonnes of sand. And, as it turns out, not all sand is the same. This suggest that we are running out of sand.
“Of course, deserts have a lot of sand; the problem is that it’s mostly useless to us.” “The World in a Grain: The Tale of Sand and How It Changed Civilization,” says Vince Beiser, author of The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization. Since the wind over millions of years has eroded desert sand, the grains have become smooth and round, rendering them useless. This isn’t suitable for producing concrete and other materials.
The angular sand found in riverbeds, banks, and floodplains, as well as in lakes and along the seashore, is what we need. The demand for that material is so high that riverbeds and beaches are being stripped bare, and farmlands and forests are being razed all over the world to get at the valuable crops. Criminal gangs have entered the trade in a rising number of countries, spawning a dangerous black market in sand, making earth running out of sand.
Breakneck urbanization is the primary cause of this crisis- why the world is running out of sand. Every year, the world’s population grows, with an increasing number of people moving from the countryside to cities, especially in developing countries. Cities are expanding at a rate and scale unprecedented in human history throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Since 1950, the number of people living in cities has more than quadrupled to 4.2 billion, with the UN predicting that another 2.5 billion will join them in the next three decades. Every year, that’s the equivalent of adding eight cities the size of New York. This will further result in making earth running out of sand.
The construction of buildings to house all of those citizens and the roads that connect them necessitates massive amounts of sand. Since 2000, the amount of construction sand used in India has tripled, and the trend continues, One of the main reason making earth running out of sand. China has possibly used more sand this decade than the United States did in the twentieth century. Dubai, which sits on the edge of a vast desert, imports sand from Australia due to the high demand for construction sand forms. That’s right: sand is being sold to Arabs by Australian exporters. Sand, on the other hand, isn’t only used to construct buildings and infrastructure; it’s increasingly being used to establish the very ground under their feet. Every year, dredging ships from California to Hong Kong scoop up millions of sand from the seafloor, piling it up in coastal areas to create a land where there was none before. The palm-tree-shaped islands of Dubai are perhaps the most well-known artificial landmasses made in recent years, but they are far from alone.
Lagos, Nigeria’s largest port, is expanding its Atlantic shoreline by 2,400 acres (9.7 square kilometres). China, the world’s fourth-largest country by natural land area, has stretched its coastline by hundreds of miles and created entire islands to house luxury resorts making earth running out of sand
The gradual disappearance of the Mekong Delta is also aided by river sand mining.
This new real estate is valuable, but it comes at a high price. Coral reefs in Kenya, the Persian Gulf, and Florida have been harmed by ocean dredging. It destroys underwater ecosystems and muddies oceans with sand plumes, affecting aquatic life far from the source.
Dredging has decimated the livelihoods of fishers in Malaysia and Cambodia. Land reclamation in China has damaged coastal wetlands, obliterated fish and shorebird habitats, and increased water pollution and also makes earth running out of sand.
Then there’s Singapore, which is a pioneer of land reclamation around the world. Over the past 40 years, the crowded city-state has built out its territory with an additional 50 square miles (130 square kilometres) of land, almost entirely with sand imported from other countries, to provide more room for its nearly six million inhabitants. The collateral environmental harm has been so severe that sand exports to Singapore have been limited by Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
Mining sand for use in concrete and other industrial applications is even more harmful. The most common source of sand for construction is rivers. It’s simple to pull the grains up with suction pumps or even bins, and once you’ve got a whole boatload, it’s simple to transport. Dredging a riverbed, on the other hand, will kill the habitat of bottom-dwelling species. The churned-up sediment will fog the water, suffocating fish and preventing sunlight from reaching the underwater vegetation.
To put it another way, the delta’s natural degradation persists, but its natural replenishment does not. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Greater Mekong Programme, almost half of the delta would be washed out by the end of the century if current trends continue.
Dredging the Mekong and other rivers in Cambodia and Laos is causing river banks to collapse, causing crop fields and even houses to be swept away. Farmers in Myanmar report that the Ayeyarwady River is experiencing the same problem.
At present, no one even knows exactly how much sand is being pulled out of the earth, nor where, nor under what conditions. Much of it is undocumented. “We just know,” says Mette Bendixen, “that the more people there are, the more sand we need.” We should all work together to save the earth. We should all try to find ways through which we can reduce the use of sand and promote low carbon cement in construction to save our world.